• Brazil deleted months of COVID-19 data from its official tracker, prompting accusations of a cover-up by Jair Bolsonaro.
  • The health ministry’s Coronavirus Panel used to show death and infection totals, with breakdowns for each state. On Friday, it was replaced with one showing only new cases by state in the last 24 hours.
  • Bolsonaro said on Facebook that the old website used data that was “not representative” of the current situation.
  • Brazil is now the epicenter of the world’s coronavirus outbreak, experiencing record-high daily death tolls last week. Only the US has more cases.
  • Gilmar Mendez, a justice at Brazil’s supreme court, said: “The manipulation of statistics is a maneuver of totalitarian regimes.” 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Brazil deleted months of data from its official COVID-19 tracker, prompting president Jair Bolsonaro to be accused of censorship.

On Friday, the health ministry’s “Coronavirus Panel” was taken offline, according to Brazil’s G1 Globo. By Saturday, it was back online, but with a fraction of the data.

The previous version of the website showed the cumulative national tally of deaths and infections, and granular data for each of Brazil’s 27 states and municipalities.

The new version showed only new deaths and cases recorded over the last 24 hours at state level, with no national tally.

Bolsonaro wrote on his personal Facebook page that the old website used data that was “not representative” and that the new version will “allow for more accurate data on the situation.”

“The disclosure of 24-hour data lets you monitor the reality of the country right now, and define appropriate strategies to help the population,” he said.

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro adjusts his mask as he leaves Alvorada Palace, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia, Brazil May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY/File Photo

President Jair Bolsonaro seen in Brasilia on May 13, 2020.

REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Several high-profile figures accused Bolsonaro of twisting the narrative — something he has done before.

“The manipulation of statistics is a maneuver of totalitarian regimes,” Gilmar Mendez, a justice at Brazil’s supreme court, wrote on Twitter. “The trick will not exempt responsibility for the eventual genocide.”

Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the minister for health fired by Bolsonaro in April, said on Saturday: “From the point of view of health it is very bad. It is a tragedy what we are seeing, the dismantling of information.”

The update to the website came at the end of what was Brazil’s worst week so far.

The country logged a record 1,262 deaths on Tuesday, only to be bested a day later when 1,349 new fatalities were reported.

Regardless, the country has moved ahead with reopening some services.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 06: Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk at the Leblon beach sidewalk on June 06 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A decree published yesterday evening began the easing of social isolation in the state of Rio de Janeiro during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The decree signed by Governor Wilson Witzel releases the partial reopening of bars, restaurants and shopping malls. The return of football and other high-performance sports, with no public, is also authorized by the government. Despite this decree, the flexibility in the city of Rio de Janeiro is not yet officially in place. According to the Brazilian Health Ministry, Brazil has over 645,000 positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and more than 35,000 deaths. (Photo by Andre Coelho/Getty Images)

Pedestrians walk at the Leblon beach sidewalk on June 6, 2020, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Andre Coelho/Getty Images

Non-essential stores, public beaches, and venues like churches in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were permitted to open from Tuesday.

On Thursday, Wilson Witzel, the governor of Rio de Janeiro, signed a decree allowing the bars, restaurants, and shopping malls to open.

Throughout the pandemic, Bolsonaro has shown disdain for the virus and played down the danger.

In March, he called the virus a “little flu” and on Tuesday said: “We are sorry for all the dead, but that’s everyone’s destiny.”

As of Saturday night, 676,494 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed. 36,044 people have died, according to a tracker from G1 .

The state of Amazonas, in the north of the country, is the worst hit, containing 12 out of the 20 cities with the highest mortality rate. Experts have warned that Brazil’s indigenous populations may face cataclysmic issues if nothing is done to help them.

Startling images of row upon row of mass graves illustrates just how bad the outbreak has got.

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